More On How Peer Review Generates And Maintains Consensuses

More On How Peer Review Generates And Maintains Consensuses

We spoke the other day of the enervating effects of peer review. Today we examine a peer-reviewed paper whose very purpose is to show that peer review exists and is doing its job. Which is to say, by strangling new ideas.

Paper’s title is “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming”, in Environmental Research Letters, by Experts John Cook, Naomi Oreskes and many others.

The opening sentence proves my contention that peer review enforces conformity:

The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%–100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies by co-authors of this paper.

So those climate scientists who agree with the consensus held by the climate journals publish in the climate journals that agree with the consensus?

Now who could have guessed that?

Anyway, that is peer review right there. The consensus is enforced by peers who naturally keep out those works that are considered wrong or are “controversial”. The only surprising thing is that Cook doesn’t claim it’s a full 100% who agree.

Though it’s close. And close is better than all. It’s a good strategy to allow a little bit of wiggle room in the stats. Claiming a constant solid never-varying 100% sounds, well, dogmatic. Allowing that tiny fraction of dissent shows, in their minds, that the scientists’ choices are freely made. Even dictators never announce a full 100% “voted” for them.

The second, and obvious, fallacy that follows is that Cook believes the Consensus proves the proposition, or rather many propositions, about global warming. They are true, to him and his co-authors, because Consensus.

Since all these scientists speak as one, how dare we disagree? Experts are against us! Peer review, then, provides another form of the classic Appeal to Authority fallacy.

Make sure you are with me. The entire purpose of Cook’s “research”, which to all appearances required much effort, was to prove that peer review works, that it’s doing its job, that the people who publish in the select journals he reviewed all (or almost all) agree on some narrow set of questions.

But why do the “research”? At first glance, it doesn’t seem it is needed. The people publishing in the journals know the score. Most of the scientists know each other, or at least know of each other. They already know that they are all on the same side. They are, after all, the peers who do the peer reviewing. It is they who set the Consensus.

Cook does not speak to or write for them; that is, these scientists didn’t need the message.

What about politicians, or civilians? Scarcely any civilian will read the paper. They will be satisfied by politicians’ and propagandists’ summaries that “All scientists agree,” etc. They won’t delve into the paper, tease out its weaknesses and figure how the results would be different if we phrased those certain propositions about global warming this way rather than that.

Not the politicians nor the civilians need this research because at this late date everybody who has an opinion on global warming, a.k.a. climate change, isn’t going to move much from it, except possibly to become more entrenched. Yes, this paper would help in the entrenchment, but they’d first have to hear about the paper, and none are likely to. (Have you?)

This leaves only one answer. That the research was done for Cook himself, and his co-authors, and those who want to be assured that peer review is doing the job asked of it. Think of the paper like a small bland comfortable sermon in dull little Church with a BLM flag flying. The kind of sermon were nothing new is heard, nothing challenging, but where the words provide a simple reminder we’re all here and doing the right thing.

If this is so, then it is yet another proof peer review stultifies. At the very least, it has wasted countless hours of time, and money, of Cook and his friends. Nothing was learned about the climate from this paper. No new science was generated.

The authors conclude:

We have shown that the scientific consensus on AGW is robust, with a range of 90%—100% depending on the exact question, timing and sampling methodology. This is supported by multiple independent studies despite variations in the study timing, definition of consensus, or differences in methodology including surveys of scientists, analyses of literature or of citation networks.

There is nothing here, nothing at all.

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  1. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    No, you aren’t considering “politico-psychological” reasons: the lies, in order to be kept alive, especially if they are too preposterous, need to be repited, over and over, and rephrased, reformulated, given always new forms of rethorical presentations and purported foundations, etc. If they stopped, the lies would fall down by their own weight and absurdity. So, Cook and heroic companions are very needed and welcomed

  2. Hagfish Bagpipe

    ”There is nothing here, nothing at all.”

    Nothing is sacred.

  3. JohnM

    Your enemy has been changing your text, again.

    “The kind of sermon were nothing new is heard, ..”

    I am sure that you typed “where”.

  4. Incitadus

    “How Peer Review Generates And Maintains Consensuses”….and most important of all
    it keeps the sheckles flowing.

  5. Jan Van Betsuni

    Some cattle range out on high fields with constant strong winds – which if they ever stopped blowing – would cause many cows to tip over.

  6. bruce g charlton

    My understanding is that all journal papers – at least in ‘medical science’ – are now peer reviewed (whatever that means); since the journal I used to edit was supposedly the last journal that wasn’t:

    In case you are interested; this was how I actually did ‘editorial review’ – i.e. broadly the same way it was done in the ‘golden era’ of real-science:

    When founded in the 1970s, it was useful to have a non-peer-reviewed indexed method of dissemination of ideas; but by the time Medical Hypotheses went over to ‘peer review’ in 2010; the internet had rendered it essentially obsolete.

    And, anyway, nowadays there is not enough *real* science being done to fill a monthly journal.

  7. Vermont Crank

    And scientists scream Waddabout Galileo, the Catholic Church tried to control information…

  8. Johnno

    And ironically, the Catholic Church is still right about Galileo! Which is why they desperately need multiverses to explain why the consensus is not seeing what it wants to see, as what it does see is us in the horrible horrible middle of all things. Therefore we need a world of illusions created by consensus-driven Transexual Science!


    Cook and Oresekes have been at this nonsense for many years. The latter since tobacco days. She was also the one lamenting that wee-p of .05 was way too tight and there should be something to the effect of “preponderance of evidence” when it comes to AGW.

    ‘ We have shown that the scientific consensus on AGW is robust, with a range of 90%—100% depending on the exact question, timing and sampling methodology’

    So they exhausted the parameter space of question, timing and methodology and the consensus was constrained in the 90-100%

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